Vladimir Kokorev became a hostage of complicated relations between Spain and Equatorial Guinea

Court and Business

Three hundred seamen of Kalunga Shipping Company represented by its owner Vladimir Kokorev, former Soviet diplomat, doctor of sciences, philologist, whose works are studied by students of Russian and foreign universities, have been protecting the own goodwill at courts.

42154.jpegAlready in early 1970s, Soviet and then Russian companies selected the Canary Island as the place for development of their business activities in the Eastern Atlantic. These activities included freight, fishing, and ship repair and service. Using his experience and reputation gained for several dozen years of work in this region, Kokorev engaged unemployed seamen of the Soviet trade ships and organized a shipping company; thus he filled the arising niche in the market of sea freight and passenger transport. As he explained himself, the vessels, which he built, purchased, and was serving by the order of the Government of Equatorial Guinea, "carried hundred thousands tongs of cargo and several million passengers". The business, which was organized by Kokorev in Spain, helped several hundred his Russian compatriots to survive in those hard times.

So, last autumn the Spanish press accused Vladimir Kokorev and his family as if they had stolen the funds of Teodoro Obiang, the President of Equatorial Guinea. It was practically impossible to investigate the arising case of our compatriots beyond the context of the activities of some persons in Spain. Nevertheless, we attempted to do so.

Money of hateful dictator

Balthazar Garson, the investigating judge of the Spanish National Board of Judges, author of high-sounding anti-corruption cases, became famous all over the world with his prosecution against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as well as with his struggle against the "Russian Mafia". This person managed to make a political show from the justice and, we should say, was successful in this activity. Due to the popularity of the persons, whom he prosecuted, he gained not only his own popularity but also his political weight.

The authorized person of Garson in all the high-sounding cases was the same person, who was not known by anybody until that time, namely, Manuel Olle Cese, a teacher of law. The relations of his father, a local political figure from Andalusia, opened for Manuel Olle the access to communication to his "great" fellow-countryman Garson. Olle did not miss the given chance. They visit together various international humanitarian forums, where Manuel Olle does his best not to fall beyond the field of view of journalists, periodically providing them with information of any kind as well as collecting the same in search for new sensational cases for his patron as well as for potential sponsors. A lucky case did not take a lot of time to arise.

In 2004, the American investigators audited Riggs Bank with respect to cash flow of terrorist organisations (after September 2001, such audits has covered the whole banking system of the USA, which provided international settlements). In the course of inspection, they detected the payments from the accounts of the Government of Equatorial Guinea to accounts of Kalunga Shipping Company with Santander Bank in Spain. The American investigators were doubtful in the purpose of sending such large amounts to Spain and sent their relevant request there.

Here our compatriot Vladimir Borisovich Kokorev acted for the first time as he was the owner of Kalunga. The Spanish law-enforcement authorities interrogated Kokorev with respect to the purpose and destination of the said payments from Riggs and received the necessary explanations: these transfers from the Government of Equatorial Guinea were the payments for the freight and passenger carrying services and maintenance and construction of vessels for this African country. The Spanish investigators were satisfied with the given answers.

But here Manuel Olle Cese submitted his famous application to the court and asked to initiate criminal prosecution against President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea and eleven more citizens of this country in Spain that they had purchased their apartments and garages with the money allegedly received from Kalunga Company. He declared this Company as a "phantom" created by Teodoro Obiang for the purpose of laundering the unfairly earned money.

Taking into consideration the fact that Equatorial Guinea is a former Spanish colony and special "issue" in the public opinion of the Spanish people, especially after discovery of tremendous oil resources in this country, the aforesaid application made a great resonance in the Spanish press. The Spanish people are always ready to talk that Obiang is a bad president, who is not easy to manage and not tending to closer collaboration with the former mother country.

Chasing the phantom

Rather soon, it became clear that Teodoro Obiang had no relationship to Kalunga. Upon more careful investigation of the "Kalunga case" Balthazar Garson made sure that it was hopeless but, pandering to the ambitions of his friend Manuel, sent his application for investigation to the city court of Las Palmas. Just at the same time, some significant events started to take place in the life of Olle. According to the information from the Spanish tax authorities, in early 2006, he received over 250 thousand euros from some unknown philanthropist. With the granted money, this lawyer, who was not known by anybody and had no stable earnings, established Gabinete Esterlicia Company with the office in one of the most expensive districts of Madrid in Goya Street. And several days later, Manuel Olle purchased an apartment in the centre of the Spanish metropolis, in three-minute walk from the Royal Palace. By a strange concurrence of circumstances, these pleasant events in the life of the lawyer coincided with the beginning propagandist campaign in the Spanish press around the "investigation of mysterious accounts" of President Obiang in Spain allegedly carried out by Olle. The facts, which are not suitable for the court, will satisfy the press.

With its representatives, in particular, with Antonio Rubio, who wrote the articles about "Russian frauds Kokorevs", Olle maintains the closest business relations. He is ready to share with the journalists any information, which he gets walking along the lobbies of courts and public prosecutor's offices, often adding something from himself. Telling the journalists about the course of the case of the "Guinean millions" and obviously justifying the money paid to him by the unknown philanthropist, he specially emphasizes the "high price" of the investigations carried out by him and hints at engagement of the "private detectives". With respect to the quality of the information, which was discovered by the said "detectives", we can consider the publications about the "Kalunga case" in newspapers El Mundo and El Pais. In particular, they wrote about Igor Kokorev as the most dangerous "member of criminal clan, persistently escaping from investigation", not suspecting absolutely that Igor is the younger son of Vladimir Kokorev and he was under age at the moment of establishment of Kalunga. Furthermore, like his parents, Igor could not escape from the investigation, because there was no actual investigation.

About the philanthropists

No investigation - no case. Here everything would end unless the unknown philanthropists, who paid over 200 thousand euros to Manuel Olle Cese, asked him to discover urgently some compromising evidences against President Obiang, who started at the same time to prosecute too zealously the organizers of the failed coup d'etat in Equatorial Guinea in 2004.

In March 2004, an aircraft with sixty mercenaries aboard was arrested at the airport of Harare in Zimbabwe. The chief of these mercenaries was former British Special Air Service officer Simon Mann. From the prison in Zimbabwe, where Mann was put for contraband of arms and attempted organization of the coup d'etat in Equatorial Guinea, Mann attempted to send a message, in which he wrote: "The situation is band, it is time for Scradge to interfere ..." Scradge is the school nickname of Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister.

On August 25, 2004, Mark Thatcher was arrested in Cape Town (South Africa). He was incriminated with financial, material, and technical assistance to the conspirators, who attempted to depose President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea. However, due to interference of the authoritative persons, Mark Thatcher avoided imprisonment. For his complicity in preparation of the coup d'etat in Equatorial Guinea, the court sentenced him to pay the penalty in the amount of five hundred thousand dollars and five years of imprisonment with suspension of the punishment for five years. Until 2011, he will be considered as provisionally uncharged. At the present time, he is residing in Spain. This son of the famous "Iron Lady" was automatically included in the black list of accomplices to terrorism. He is prohibited to enter the USA, Switzerland, Monaco, and numerous other countries. The banks of these countries have closed and blocked his accounts. Even in his British motherland, he does not feel himself quite comfortable. The deportation of Mark Thatcher is procured by Equatorial Guinea. Therefore, it is better for him not to visit Africa, where he had wide business interests some time ago.

Today Spain is one of the few countries of the world, where Mark Thatcher feels himself relatively safe, because this safety of Mark Thatcher is provided by his Spanish friends, not only with compassion to the misadventures of their British colleague but also with the fear for the own denunciation. Moreover, Simon Mann, who was imprisoned in Zimbabwe and in Equatorial Guinea and uncharged by the amnesty granted to him by President Obiang, is threatening to put Mark Thatcher and his Spanish well-wishers into prison.

Some names of these friends are well known. Thus, in the course of investigation, there were repeated references to the name of Antonio Garriges. Garriges is from one of the most authoritative families in Spain. There are their known relations in Washington, first of all with Henry Kissinger, one of the patriarchs of the American diplomacy. In 1970s, Antonio Garriges, a son of the former Spanish ambassador in Washington, took the certain part in establishment of American contacts of young socialist leader Felipe Gonzales and Spain joining NATO. They refer to a very ambiguous role of Garriges in unofficial contacts between the Government of Jose Maria Asnar and the administration of junior Bush in the period of preparation for the war in Iraq. These contacts resulted in the famous meeting in the Azores of three Western leaders: Bush, Blair, and Asnar, which showed the green light to the aggression in the Middle East. According to the sources in Washington, in consideration of the support to the military actions against Saddam Hussein, President Bush promised Asnar to approve deposition of Obiang in Equatorial Guinea, in which country the Americans have the own interest in the scope of oil extraction.

While volumes of literature have been already written about the British participation in the attempted coup d'etat of 2004, very little information is known about the role of Spain in the Guinean events. In particular, Adam Roberts, the author of the most comprehensive study on the events of 2004 in Equatorial Guinea (Adam Roberts «The Wonga Coup», London, 2009), has no doubts that landing of the mercenaries of Simon Mann was only the first phase of the scheduled operation. Upon deposition of President Obiang, the British mercenaries should be substituted by three thousand Spanish troops, who surprisingly appeared the day before the coup d'etat aboard two Spanish warships in several dozen miles from the metropolis of Guinea. Therefore, this coup d'etat would turn into a peacemaking operation and the conspirators would transform from the accomplices of international terrorists into the fighters for democracy in Africa. But after the arrest of Simon Mann and his mercenaries, the Spanish warships received the order to return to the Spanish territorial waters.

On the part of Spain, there were no clear explanations about the target of the Spanish troops in thousands of miles from the home shores the day before the coup d'etat in Equatorial Guinea and the reason for their return in such a hurry.

Money should be worked off

When in late 2005 Mark Thatcher was released from the house arrest in South Africa and moved to Spain, the authorities of Equatorial Guinea persisted on deportation from Zimbabwe of Simon Mann as his accomplice in organization of the coup d'etat. The campaign in press and, what is better, initiation of criminal prosecution in Spain against President Obiang should, according to the intentions of the organizers of this operation, break or in any case hinder deportation of Mann to Guinea and at the same time serve as a preventive action with respect to Thatcher.

In 2007, Mann was eventually deported to the Guinean justice. They failed to develop the criminal prosecution against President Obiang in Spain as there were no compromising evidences. However, the flywheel of all this operation has been already started, and Manuel Olle had to justify by any means the invested funds. So lawyer Olle from Madrid simply falsified the results of his private "investigation" and his initiated "drains" to the press were intended to divert the attention from the legal inconsistency of his compiled documents. In order to make more convincing his accusations, which were not based on any evidences, using the ubiquitous bugbear of the "Russian Mafia", Olle implicated in this case the Kokorevs family as the sole owners of Kalunga Shipping Company, despite of the Olle's inspired statements in the press that money was received from the Government of Equatorial Guinea only for repair and maintenance of vessels.

What about Guinea?

We makea reservation that the cold war against Equatorial Guinea is carried out not by the Government of Spain, which repeatedly attempted to establish normal relations with the own former colony, but a group of Spanish citizens having their own specific interests in this country.

At the same time, whatever was written on this matter in the Spanish press, the real situation of Equatorial Guinea, unlike the absolute majority of African countries, has not worsened at all during the years of independence. For the ten recent years, due to the significant growth of oil and gas extraction, the gross domestic product of Equatorial Guinea increased by dozens of times and, if recalculated per capita, is today the same as that in Spain - approximately 30 thousand dollars. This is the highest level in tropical Africa.
Undoubtedly, there are numerous problems in this country, which are similar to those settled by other countries in Africa. First of all, this is weakness of the governmental institutions, which generates lawlessness, on the one hand, and helplessness of the authorities, on the other hand. Appealing to the international community, President Obiang to gather patience. "We are still studying democracy", said he.

Nevertheless, the situation of human rights in Equatorial Guinea is not as catastrophic as is often referred with gloating delight by the Spanish press. The international organizations, which provide monitoring in this sphere, note again and again the certain progress in this respect. They could be hardly suspected in sympathies to any dictatorship but, in the course of their monitoring of the parliamentary and presidential elections held in Equatorial Guinea, the international organizations note the absence of any open pressure to the electorate as well as that the parties standing in the opposition to President Obiang use the full liberty in the course of the own events. These observations are somewhat contradicting to the reports in the Spanish press, which makes no difference between the crimes committed in early 1970s by Macias as the first President of Equatorial Guinea and Teodoro Obiang, who deposed him.

There were several attempts to depose Obiang. The treads of all these plots lead generally to Spain, which is the residence of the so-called government in expatriation, and there these threads certainly break. However, the Spanish journalists would not like to investigate the details of the attempted murder of Teodoro Obiang, which was prepared by some of their compatriots.

Brief conclusion

Balthazar Garson, who inspired and taught Manuel Olle, was discharged from office with the resolution by the Spanish General Board of Justice, which authority controls the activities of Spanish judges and investigators, because he is under investigation himself as the person involved in three criminal cases at the same time. In addition to the fact that that Spanish Justice is suspecting him in abuse of his official powers, Balthazar Garson has some problems with his bank accounts and side earnings. The stay of Garson in the USA for one year was paid by banker Emilio Botin, who was repeatedly accused in serious financial violations. Former investigating judge Garson has not yet given any clear explanations why termination of the criminal investigations, which were initiated with respect to Botin, took place immediately after his return from overseas.

When the story of Guinean money laundering through the Russian Mafia was found inconsistent, Manuel Olle defected to another party, acting as the lawyer of Jaime Matasa, the former President of the Balearic Islands (autonomous territory of Spain), who was involved in corruption and megabuck frauds. As the devoted friend and companion of Olle, Antonio Rubio wrote in press that "the former President of the Balearic Islands remained free only because he engaged Manuel Olle as his lawyer". We have only to feel sorry for the client of the newly-made lawyer, because Jaime Matasa was always especially sensitive to drains of information about his criminal case to the Spanish press.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Kokorev, who was involved in this case due to his Russian origin, is still protecting his goodwill at the courts. By the way, these proceedings draw a great attention of several hundreds of seamen, who worked under the flags of Kalunga Company, because the definition of "phantom company" sounds absolutely absurd in their records of service.

Author: Alexander FINIST.
«Оdnako», № 39 (55), 25.10.2010

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov